Good and Bad Perfectionists

Perfectionists are everywhere.  In fact, without them, not very much would get done well!

But there are good and bad perfectionists.  Neither is ever satisfied — for the good ones, this is because they always find something to improve.  For the bad ones, it’s because they always find a mistake to fix.
This difference in approach is very real, and in music, it has a noticeable impact on how people learn, how they perform, and how they play with others.

It’s not so hard to turn a bad perfectionist into a good one.  The “cure” became clear to me when I heard about a theater game taught by an improvisation instructor.

One of the stumbling blocks for bad perfectionists is that, while they may believe that “practice makes perfect”, they often don’t know which things need to be perfected, or how, or when.  As mentioned in the previous article, cognitive scientists have found that “learners are very poor judges of when they’re learning well.”  If students’ priorities are not on target, judging themselves harshly may only be getting in their own way.

Jack, for example, was so wrapped up in getting every note right that he didn’t stop to realize how weak his bowing was.  We focused on making his sound more confident, on bowing to match the timing of the tune, on finding the right ratio of bow speed and pressure to make a clear sound, and Jack made a lot of progress.

I complimented him on this progress and encouraged him to keep it up and pay attention to it when he played.  But all he could do was frown and look at me as if I was crazy.  He pointed out each of the notes he’d missed, especially one of them that had been way out of tune.  I explained why his new bowing skill made all the notes sound much better and more in time, even the notes that weren’t perfect.  He looked askew at me as if I was either deaf, or lying in order to make him feel better.

This was when we talked about the improv exercise.  Here’s how it worked:  Continue reading Good and Bad Perfectionists

Turning Music Learning on Its Head

A ten-year study of learning, published a year ago, came up with some surprising conclusions that, for some music students and teachers, might turn music learning on its head.   One is that drilling a passage of music over and over is not the way to master it.
It turns out that working in a focused way on one thing yields results, but they’re only temporary.  One example is the way someone might cram for a test and get by, but then forget most of the material soon after.  But it applies to learning music or any other subject as well.

A couple of other strategies work much better than single-task practice, if the goal is mastery and long-term results.  One way is Continue reading Turning Music Learning on Its Head

Welcome! Here’s what to expect —

Here, on a regular basis, you can find new posts featuring:

1.  Current News

Fiddle-online blog posts will bring you news about upcoming classes, newly posted videos, and guest workshops.

2.  Pointers to help you better work with videos, classes, and materials.

3.  Ideas abEd (2)out how people learn fiddle

These articles will explore fresh ways for us to think about learning, practicing, and playing the instrument.  I draw upon many years of teaching experience, recent published research, and adaptions of over 150 blog posts I’ve written for a music teacher’s site.

Your comments and questions are always welcome, and may well serve as topics for future articles.

–Ed Pearlman